Monday, November 7, 2011

2011-11-07 "Vallejo garbage gets a little less trashy" by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald"
It is not often that city officials can describe their trash cans as "high-end on the technology."
But that's exactly what Vallejo Recycling Coordinator Derek Crutchfield said Monday, standing in admiration before the city's relatively new solar-powered trash compactor and recycling bin.
"It would be better if they were all like that," Crutchfield said of the trash compactor. "(One unit is) a small savings now, but as we tend to purchase more -- ideally, what we'd like to do is look at doing the waterfront."
A second solar compacting unit stands waiting its future placement near the Ferry Building once the waterfront parking facility is complete, Crutchfield said.
"This is something that is very sleek, very nice and pleasing to the eye, as opposed to those great concrete monstrosities that you see all over town," Crutchfield said.
It's also shatterproof, graffiti-resistant and very quiet -- for a trash compactor.
Assisting with the cleaner look for the sidewalk in front of City Hall is the trash unit's door -- it's a "mailbox top," which limits the size and amount of waste going in at any one time, Crutchfield said.
The high-tech unit has called the pavement in front of City Hall home for the past two months, and has only been emptied of its trash once, said city maintenance worker Josh Davidson. On the other hand, the less secure recycling collection portion of the device has been emptied regularly -- by "scavengers," Crutchfield said.
"Because the bottles are by themselves, people aren't breaking into the garbage compactor to get out the bottles," a problem with the old trash can, Crutchfield said. "The fact that the doors aren't bent and torn means that it's working."
The way city workers knew when it was finally time to pick up the new unit's trash? Davidson said he checked its fullness level via his mobile phone. The "smart" trash unit has several internal sensors that are "phoned" in to to the unit's maker, BigBelly, after which the information is accessible to city workers online.
Davidson estimated one unit can hold up to 60 pounds of compacted trash.
"Green means it's fine, yellow means pick up immediately, red means you should have picked it up yesterday," Davidson said of three lights on the face of the unit and on the website.
Typically, Davidson said that three times a week he travels up and down Mare Island Way to empty the more standard city trash bins along the waterfront. Each outing takes up about half his work day, he said.
 Funding for the compactor, which can run from $2,000 to $6,000 per unit, came from the state Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Crutchfield said. Jurisdictions statewide are allocated annual anti-litter funding, based on population, from the department. In past years, the funds have gone to the city Code Enforcement Division, Crutchfield said.
The state funding was also used to purchase new water fountains for city hall, that have special water bottle filling stations and filtered water. The fountain on City Hall's main second floor estimates, by its own count, the elimination of 2,053 disposable water bottles since about July.

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